Rep. Dale Wright

Last Thursday, I had the honor of being the Master of Ceremonies for the amazing Center for Life Banquet event held in Bloomsdale.

The Center for Life is a Christian Ministry committed to the care of individuals and their families by providing counselling and support to pregnant women in crisis; promoting spiritual growth; affirming the sanctity of life and bringing peace in a time of crisis in both the Bloomsdale and Perryville areas. What a testament to life it was! There were 350 people in attendance and we were privileged to have 13 Pastors in attendance from various churches in our area. The keynote speaker was Nashville recording artist, Mark Schultz, who has done more than 200 benefit concerts for pregnancy resource centers and adoption agencies across the country. Mark is an award winning song writer and singer and is an Advocate for Life as a result of his own story of being adopted which gives him a chance to give back to the organizations like the one which he says saved his life.

Director for the Center for Life is Shirley Moore and what an asset she is to that organization. To learn more about this incredible program, you can access their website at www.optionsforwomenmissouri.com.

Ste. Genevieve was the place to be on Friday. I enjoyed visiting with Mr. Frank Rolfe on Friday afternoon and getting to tour the old Ste. Genevieve Academy which he and his wife own and also live in. Later that evening I was privileged to attend the Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce annual Gala Event at the DuBourg Center.

Governor Mike Parson and First Lady Theresa Parson hosted a BBQ Monday following adjournment of House business. It is always an honor to visit them at their home which they call “The People’s House.” All guests were personally greeted by the Governor and First Lady. What a gracious couple they are! The State of Missouri is fortunate to have Governor Parson as the leader of this great state.

Tax Reform

As the 2019 tax season comes to a close, two key facts have emerged: Incomes are up, and taxes are down. Since the passage of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and the adoption the largest single year income tax cut offered out of the Missouri House of Representatives, Missouri has demonstrated strong economic growth, delivered real savings, and created more job opportunities for hard-working individuals and families.

Since January 2017, Missouri’s unemployment rate has fallen 1.2 percent and has remained near historical lows, currently at 3.3 percent, the lowest level since 2000. Missouri’s employment levels have recently reached all-time highs, topping a total of 2.9 million jobs.

Missouri conservatives champion the fundamental principle of reducing the tax burden for individuals of all incomes, and it’s encouraging to see the immediate results of these pro-growth policies. According to the most recent income tax data, sixty-four percent of taxpayers saw an increase in their incomes, bringing home $6 billion, or 5 percent, more than last year. Fifty-one percent of taxpayers saw a decrease in their effective tax rate. Our pro-growth agenda is helping Missouri families, farmers, and business owners who now get to keep more of what they earn.

Tax reform has always been about expanding opportunity and making sure hardworking Missourians could keep more of what they earn. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has helped fuel the strongest economic growth we’ve seen in more than a decade. We now have an economy where people feel more secure in the job they have and more optimistic about the opportunities they’ll have in the future. We’re on the right track and we’ll keep moving forward on pro-growth policies that will allow our state, and our country, to continue leading in a global economy.

The increase in take-home pay because of tax cuts is having a positive impact on local economies. In the first 12 months following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, sales and use tax revenue increased by nearly 2.5 percent. That means more money going into small businesses that drive job growth.

(HJRs 48, 46 & 47)

House Joint Resolutions 48, 46 & 47 seek to give voters a choice in the November 2020 election by offering the following major improvements to Amendment 1:

1. The five dollar lobbyist gift limit would be reduced to become a complete lobbyist gift ban.

2. Contribution limits for the Senate would be lowered from $2,500 to $2,000 to match those of the House.

3. Establish criteria that ensure the redistricting process is compliant with the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, that it provides communities of interest with representation and participation in the political process, and that it restores districts that are compact and contiguous and achieve partisan fairness.

4. A fairer bipartisan committee, rather than a single bureaucrat whose appointment will be controlled by a partisan elected official, draws the maps. This removes the danger of a single redistricting czar under the sway, if not outright control, of one political party or set of special interest.

These proposed changes will give Missouri voters the chance to vote for ethics reform, and choose the form of redistricting they prefer. The improvements would put the rights of individuals, communities and racial minorities above political parties.

HB 1135

Members of the Missouri House have approved legislation in (HB 1135) meant to help victims of domestic violence get away from abusers and move on with their lives.

Under the bill, victims of domestic violence, who are engaged with an agency accredited with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence, would receive a one-time fee waiver for obtaining a copy of a birth certificate.

Individuals who leave a home where abuse occurs often leave behind birth certificates, as well as other documents and identification. When they attempt to obtain new forms of identification such as a driver license or attempt to open a bank account, it is difficult to do so without a birth certificate. The fee to get a new copy is often a burden to a survivor faced with numerous other expenses while trying to start down a new path in life.

These vulnerable people need access to birth certificates in order to participate in legitimate activities leading to independence and self-sufficiency. Abusers often take control of a victim’s vital records since that keeps them unable to leave. The bill also provides a free birth certificate to any homeless or unaccompanied youth, and allows an unaccompanied youth to obtain a birth certificate without consent or signature of a parent or guardian. The bill now is now under consideration in the Missouri Senate.

Other Bills of Interest

HB 576 modifies the Campus Free Expression Act. The bill requires the governing board of each public institution of higher education to adopt a policy on free expression by January 1, 2020. Current Missouri law does not go far enough to protect students and promote freedom of speech. Some colleges in Missouri have policies in place that limit speech or provide administration with too much discretion on what speech should be allowed. The bill also establishes the "Cronkite New Voices Act," which provides that in both public high schools and public institutions of higher education a student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media.

HB 681 extends from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2025, the expiration of the fee collected from retailers for the disposal of old tires. Supporters say the scrap tire fee has helped to clean up millions of abandoned tires across Missouri. The bill would allow the Department of Natural Resources to continue to clean up abandoned tires.

HB 1162 requires the Department of Economic Development to maintain a record of all federal grants awarded to entities for the purposes of providing, maintaining, and expanding rural broadband in the state of Missouri. In cases in which funds have been retained, withheld or not distributed due to failure to meet performance standards or other criteria, the department must seek to have the funds awarded to another eligible, qualified Missouri broadband provider. The bill would keep grant funds in Missouri instead of returning the funds to the federal government to reallocate. This would ensure that funds remain in the state to bring broadband to the rural areas.

HB 1049 clarifies existing language about parents providing health insurance in cases of child support. The bill specifies that in an IV-D case, the division shall require that a child be covered under a private health plan whenever such a health benefit plan is available through a parent's employer or union. Supporters say the Office of Child Support Enforcement recently sent a letter to the MO Family Support Division regarding noncompliance with a federal rule change from 2017. This legislation makes Missouri compliant and if it is not passed, the state would risk losing the full IV-D federal share of expenditures for Missouri's IV-D program, including incentive payments and the TANF block grant.

HB 585 establishes the "Taxpayer Protection Act." For all tax years beginning January 1, 2020, this bill requires paid tax return preparers to sign any income tax return or claim for refund and provide the preparer's Internal Revenue Service preparer tax identification number. The bill will help prevent fraud and also serve as a consumer protection measure to help prevent taxpayers from being taken advantage of by unqualified tax preparers or criminals.

If you have any questions regarding any state matters or legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact email me at dale.wright@house.mo.gov or call 573-751-3455. It is an honor to serve as your State Representative.

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